What’s for supper? Vol. 212: The best things in life are jiggly

This week, I cleaned a lot and ate a lot, and now you people are gonna hear about it. 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Since I’m no longer shopping on Saturdays, I decided I had time to tackle The Middle Room, which has four girls in it. I normally pretend the upstairs doesn’t exist at all, but every so often, it demands to be recognized, usually by whispering phrases like “fire hazard” and “child protective services” into my psyche at 3 a.m.

I had the kids take everything downstairs. EVERYTHING.

We did it this way because if I go upstairs to sort, I end up drowning in guilt and throwing up with dust, and the rage and disgust and regret overwhelm me before I get to the bottom of things. So I make them bring the mess to me, and then I have to push through and finish the project no matter how bad it feels, or I don’t get my living room back. Maybe someday I’ll finish a task without deliberately entrapping myself, but not today.

So they lugged everything downstairs in bags and boxes, and they stripped that room like we were planning to move out. Then we moved the furniture, and vacuumed everything, and wiped it all down. Then everything they own got a pass or fail (the older kids were allowed to have crates of belongings that I didn’t personally sort through, as long as they were reasonably contained and didn’t smell of rotten fruit). Then we sorted out what was left and put it all back again. 

Guys, we threw out thirteen bags of junk. And we bought a new mattress, and new lights, and new storage tubs and crates and shelves, and new hanging organizers. And a new vacuum cleaner. We finished around 8:45 p.m. The finished bedroom still looks like most people’s “before,” but I’m pleased. And we got our living room back. 

Oops, this is a food blog. Well, Damien exerted his husbandly authority and commanded me to let him pick up some frozen pizzas. 

SUNDAY
Mac and cheese with kielbasa, sausage rolls

Mother’s day! I was showered with truly wonderful homemade gifts and treats, and visited my favorite local nursery to pick out some peonies and lilies of the valley. The original plan was to go on a hike and a picnic, but it was windy and nippy out, so we settled for a picnic in the back yard with strawberries and giant sandwiches Damien made with all kinds of special meats and cheeses, and it was a lovely day all day.

I made my normal mac and cheese (just basically a ton of white sauce with whatever cheese we have lying around melted into it), but added sliced up kielbasa.

As with so many people, more and more of our meals are the result of whatever we could find in the stores, so they are getting weird. I liked the mac and cheese with kielbasa, though. It tasted like exactly what it was.

I also made a tray of sausage rolls. 

 

Jump to Recipe

Last time I made this recipe, I used puff pastry, and that’s a better choice than the phyllo dough I used this time. (This was the very last roll of phyllo dough left over from the time I made baklava for the Dead Theologians Society. Yes, packaged phyllo dough really keeps that long in the fridge.) 

These are savory little pastries stuffed with sausage and onions, brushed with egg and topped with “everything” seasoning. They were very tasty, and I was amazed all over again that the kids didn’t want them. They are quite easy to make, and would be great for party snacks, or for when it’s mother’s day and you can make what you like and people aren’t going to be jerks for once. 

MONDAY
Different Asian meatballs with lime sauce, rice

Last time I mentioned this moderately popular Asian meatball recipe I make

 

Jump to Recipe

someone recommended a recipe that included a different, more exciting dipping sauce made with sesame oil, lime, and cilantro. Fool that I am, I messed with moderate success and also tried the new meatball recipe that went along with the new sauce.

Those meatballs were not great. Also, I had some medium-bad migraine brain and repeatedly confused teaspoons and tablespoons, and also I didn’t read the recipe all the way through, and had put all the ingredients in with the meat, including the ingredients which any feeble minded cat would have known were for the sauce, and weren’t supposed to be mixed in with the meat. So I had to scrape a bunch of wet crap off the meat and start over again.

The sauce was good, though! Eventually! I’ll make the sauce again, with the superior meatballs, once we recover from our unpleasant associations with this meal. I also got it into my head to scrub the hell out of the bathtub on Monday, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Nothing beats good old fashioned Comet.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, fries

I went grocery shopping on Tuesday. My strategy is: a mask to protect other people, my sacred heart necklace to remind me of who I am so I don’t murder anyone, and an extra dose of Buspar to seal the deal. Then I got home and collapsed like a bunch of broccoli and Damien made hot dogs and fries. I feel like there was some vegetable, but that may have been a hallucination.

WEDNESDAY
Bibimbap and berry cheese cake

Earlier in the week, I had bribed Corrie with cake-making videos while I braided her hair. She likes the recipes that involve either morbidly peppy blonde ladies who don’t know when to stop, or else extremely together Asian women making deft little movements with specially-shaped spatulas in their little glass bowls, and then boop! They produce a magical raindrop cake with a flower made of strawberries suspended inside. So I got it in my head that we needed to make our own fantastical dessert of some kind. Here is what we came up with (there were two of them):

They were . . .  intriguing. Even compelling. And wiggly. All the best desserts are wiggly. We used the no-bake cheesecake part of this recipe, but only because I was going for oven avoidance rather than taste; and for the top, we used clear gelatin sweetened with ginger ale. I’ll include the recipe for how we made the Jell-o part, mainly because I went to the trouble of writing it up. 

Jump to Recipe

 

The graham cracker base partially fell apart because I used silicone pans, because I have a permanent grudge against springform pans; and the one jell-o mold that came out of the bowl intact had a textured surface, so it wasn’t crystal clear. At this time, I am accepting zero advice about how to get better results next time, as there will be no next time. The kids had fun, I ate some cheesecake, and that’s what we were going for. Ta dah!

I think Wednesday was also when I decluttered and reorganized the kitchen. Maybe? The days are running together. Someone definitely cleaned my kitchen, and I remember being mad, so it was probably me. Spring cleaning hit hard this year, you guys. And I found the bag of powdered milk that I bought when I first realized that this corona thing wasn’t going to just blow over. I guess I’ll hold onto that. 

For the bibimbap, I made a big pot of rice, and cooked up some sliced-up pork and onions in a gochujang sauce

Jump to Recipe

 

Clara made some quick pickled carrots

 

Jump to Recipe

 

and I set out raw spinach, crunchy noodles, chopped scallions, and miscellaneous sauces and sesame seeds and whatnot. Everyone took what they wanted, and then lined up for their fried egg on top. 

 

Gosh, I love this meal. I like to fry my egg until it’s crisp on the bottom, then flip it over just for a second, then flip it back and slide it on top of the spinach, so it wilts the greens a little. Then some hot sauce. 

You got the cold crunchy carrots and noodles with the egg yolk running into it, you got the meat sauce slowly sinking into the rice. Great meal. I’ve tried many different sauces, but I think I’ll stay with the gochujang one from now on.

THURSDAY
Quicken quesadillas and chips with pico de gallo

These were, of course, chicken quesadillas, not quicken. I may still have a migraine, and also part of my tooth fell off again. Nevertheless, Thursday was yet another big cleaning project: The Dining Room Heap. It was an ugly afternoon, but I only discovered one backpack full of rotten fruit in the process. And now no one has to crab-walk to get to the dining room table. Such luxury!

And boy, dinner tastes good after you’ve been working hard. 

Clara roasted up the chicken and Lena made the pico de gallo

Jump to Recipe

 

and I shredded the cheese and finally succeeded in coaxing Corrie out of a 48-hour snit by shouting, “HAVE SOME CHEESE, RAT!” and throwing cheese at her. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Today I open up the bag of avocados and see how I did. I am inordinately proud of my skill at choosing avocados for their ripeness stage. I also have some pineapples and mangoes I’ve been avoiding all week.

Okay, that’s it! I gained forty-three pounds this week, how about you? 

Sausage rolls

Servings 36 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs sausage, loose or squeezed out of casings
  • 1 lg onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1.5 lbs puff pastry dough (1.5 packages)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • "Everything" seasoning, if you like

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil until it's slightly browned

  3. Put the raw, loose sausage in a bowl. Beat two of the eggs and add them to the bowl along with the cooked onions. Mix thoroughly.

  4. Cut the puff pastry into six long strips. On a floured surface, roll them out until they're somewhat thinner.

  5. Divide the sausage mixture into six portions and spoon it out into a long rows down the middle of each strip of puff pastry

  6. Form the sausage mixture into a tidier strip, leaving a margin of dough on each side.

  7. With a pastry brush, paint the dough margins on both sides.

  8. Fold the pastry up over the sausage on both sides, to form a long roll.

  9. Flip the roll over and lay it in a greased pan with the creased side down.

  10. Cut each roll into six smaller sections. (You can make them whatever size you like, really.) Leave a little space in between rolls on the pan.

  11. Brush each little roll with the rest of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with "everything" seasoning if you like.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the rolls are golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

 

2 berry domes for cheesecakes or just for excitement

Ingredients

  • 8 envelopes clear unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  • 6 oz blackberries
  • 6 oz raspberries
  • 6 cups gingergale (about 3.5 cans)

Instructions

  1. Slice the strawberries. Mix them up with the other berries.

  2. Spray a large bowl or two smaller bowls with cooking spray. Put the berries in and try to arrange them as far up the sides as possible. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the gelatin and the sugar.

  4. Boil the water and whisk it into the gelatin and sugar until the gelatin is dissolved.

  5. Add the ginger ale and stir to combine.

  6. Carefully pour the gingerale-gelatin mixture into the prepared bowls of berries.

  7. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until firmly set.

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

What’s for supper? Vol. 152: We put the rab in it

According to tradition, I skipped the Friday-After-the-Thursday-That-Is-Thanksgiving food post, because guess what we had? Turkey. Guess what it looked like? Turkey! Now you know.

Here’s what we had this week, including two meals with leftover turkey:

SATURDAY
Brats, sausages, and onions three ways

Damien made supper and it got away from him in the way that weekend suppers sometimes will. Everybody liked it, but there was no denying it was brats, sausages, raw onions, peppers and onions, and then other onions. And chicken tenders!

 

It was so much onions, the vampires were like, “You know what, close enough. We’ll just wait outside.”

SUNDAY
Turkey bacon Welsh rabbit

I’ve always been curious about Welsh rabbit. Turns out it’s basically just toast with a savory cheese sauce. We had sliced turkey, naturally, and I got some thick bacon, and I figured it couldn’t miss. I got some thick rye-pumpernickel swirl bread and made the cheese sauce using Alton Brown’s recipe, which calls for Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and beer.

Well, it was doomed from the start. Half the kids were upset because they thought there was rabbit in it, and the other half were upset because there wasn’t. The food itself was tasty, but . . . I don’t know, it’s possible I was still full from gorging myself like a monster over the weekend, and I just didn’t want a whole lot of savory cheese sauce.

Oh well. Oh Welsh.

MONDAY
Turkey enchiladas and tortilla chips

The last of the leftover turkey. I shredded the meat and mixed it up with plenty of chili powder, pepper, and cumin. We are always low on onions for enchiladas, so Dora prepped an avalanche of onions for me before she went to work. I cooked those down (to lazy to wait for them to caramelize, because it would have taken twelve years).

Normally I sort of dredge the tortillas in enchilada sauce, then add meat, onions, and cheese from separate bowls to each one, and roll them up. This time, I mixed the turkey and onions all together, threw in a few cans of drained diced roasted tomatoes, and heated it up together, then spooned the mixture onto the tortillas and added cheese. If this is wrong in some way, I don’t care.

I poured the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of the rolled enchiladas, threw the last of the cheese on, and chunked it in the oven. I had sour cream and some cilantro to top it. Scallions are better, but I lost them. I like the green sauce better than the red.

So, I have tried enchilada lasagna/casserole before, where you have all the same ingredients in there, but layered, rather than wrapped. It is easier, for sure, but I just didn’t enjoy eating it the same way. Maybe it’s some latent cannibalistic instinct, but I really like eating things that look like something’s sleeping inside.

Which is ironic, considering a really awful story involving a surprise dead mouse which I will not relate at this time.

They were pretty good enchiladas. I made a bunch with red sauce and a bunch with green. I felt like I could still detect a ghost of stuffing and yams under the chili powder and cumin, but I may have been imagining that. For one thing, we did not have yams this year.

I will make up a recipe card at some point, but when I’m not cutting corners, I basically follow Pioneer Woman.

TUESDAY
Mushroom bacon corn chowder

Completely fabulous soup. How could it possibly not taste good? Bacon, thinly-sliced red potatoes, diced onions, corn, sliced mushrooms, plenty of pepper, beef broth, and half-and-half. I basically followed this recipe from Damn Delicious, except with more bacon and with sliced potatoes instead of diced, but I’m too lazy to make it into my own recipe card.

Actually, I got confused and completely messed up the direction. I fried the bacon, then added flour to the bacon grease, then added the vegetables; and then I got confused and just threw everything else in together and cooked it until the potatoes were soft. Oh, and cream at the end. Tasted good to me.

The kids moaned and groaned as if I were serving them castor oil on sandpaper. I suggested that, if they didn’t like soup, there were plenty of leftover enchiladas. But they didn’t like the enchiladas, either. What a fwiggin shame. Look at me crying.

I had that soup for lunch the rest of the week. At one point, I opened the fridge and discovered that they had put the soup pot in the fridge, covered it loosely with plastic wrap, then put a small plate of enchiladas on top of the pot, and then A GALLON JUG OF MILK ON TOP OF THAT.

Savages. Savages. Barely even human. I fished the enchiladas out and ate the soup anyway. Savages.

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, frozen mixed veg

I had forgotten to plan a side for this meal, so I threw the potato salad together in a hurry, and it was a little weird. I diced the potatoes before cooking them, to speed it up, and then I made a dressing with mayo, cider vinegar (why? We had white vinegar), pepper, and too much sugar. We were out of celery, and a bad child came in and persuaded me to use celery salt, even though I knew that was a bad idea. I also forgot to add eggs. I put in some diced red onions just to give it a little crunch. It was just kind of metallic-tasting, plus too sweet.  I added more mayo, so then it was gloppy and metallic. I can decent make potato salad, but this wasn’t it.

 

Then there was this.

THURSDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with lemony onions, pita, yogurt sauce, and pomegranates 

A very fine meal. I set the chicken to marinate in the morning, sliced the onions, and made up the yogurt sauce. (More detailed instructions here.) My kitchen is so cold, I didn’t need to refrigerate anything [*feeble cheering sound*]. Then it was pretty quick to put the rest together an hour before supper. I had to practically grab my family by the lips and force them to say it was good, but they did say it.

It’s technically a one-pan meal,

but you do really want extra yogurt sauce, and you do want those lemony onions. And have mercy, you do want to make the marinade and give it a few hours, because look at that chicken skin:

I had a pretty good time with those pomegranates, too.

Ha cha cha!

FRIDAY
I guess bagels and eggs?

Why I ever cook anything more than this for these ungrateful crumbs, I don’t know.

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 151: Sauté, girls, sauté!

Oh lordy, I’m running so late. But we finally did a podcast! Did you hear our podcast? You might like it! I thought it was pretty funny, and we have a name, a logo, and new mics, and are taking a slightly different approach. This one is free, and we’re working on moving toward getting the archives on iTunes. I know I say this every few months, but this time I mean it!

But you’re here for the food, and that’s cool, that’s cool. Here’s what we had this week.

Oh wait, before I forget: Would it be easier if I made a second page for each Friday food post, just for recipe cards? I know it’s a pain to scroll down, but I want to keep them together, and not intersperse them in the post. Let me know.

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report. Running around like maniacs, as usual.

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken and giant croutons

I slathered the chicken breasts with oil and seasoned them liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, then roasted them and sliced them. Served on mixed greens with dried cranberries, crumbled feta, diced red onion, and toasted almonds.

I feel like such an adult when I put out bowls of things for salad. No particular reason. I just like bowls of things.

Reminder: Nuts toast up very nicely in the microwave. Spread them on a plate and set it for two minutes. Easy peasy.

We also made croutons from some rolls I accidentally bought. Cut bread into cubes, pour melted butter on top, season however you like, and spread them in a pan. Leave at least 40 minutes or more to toast them slowly in a 300 oven or so, so they dry out completely. Confession: If you are in a rush, you can just turn it up and toast them on the outside, and they will be chewy and bready on the inside, and not a single person will complain, because here is a pan of hot buttery bread cubes.

MONDAY
Croque monsieur, fries, pomegranates 

Okay. So this has been on my list to make for a few weeks. It’s apparently French pub food, and is really just a hot sandwich of nice ham and nice cheese with cheese sauce on top. But I read a few recipes a few times, and couldn’t figure out what the hell they were talking about. I can follow complex recipes, but I guess the fact that it was complex and yet still just a cheese sandwich was too much for my pea brain.

Anyway, I finally watched an Ina Garten video, and then it made sense. You trim the crusts off white bread, put shredded gruyere and ham and dijon mustard inside, then put cheese sauce made with gruyere and parmesan on top, then a bit more shredded gruyere, then bake, then broil. Here is what they look like before baking:

And here they are, fresh out of the oven:

Damien loved them, and the kids thought they were good. I wasn’t crazy about them. I never thought I’d say this, but it was just too much damn cheese. I like cheese a lot, but I don’t want to feel like cheese is the air I breathe, and that’s how croque monsieur made me feel. Anyway, if this looks appealing to you, you could totally use cheddar instead of gruyere.

“Croque monsieur” means “crunch sir,” if you’re wondering. If you put a fried egg on top, that makes it a “croque madame,” and that’s why French kids don’t have ADHD, if by ADHD you mean “All Done Having Dairy.” Please don’t think about this joke. It doesn’t deserve your time.

TUESDAY
Regular tacos, tortilla chips, guacamole

The kids requested regular tacos, with regular ground beef seasoned with regular spices that come in a regular little packet. No fish, no spicy cabbage, no lime or cilantro or kimchee or Korean-inspired nonsense, just regular tacos. Fine.

Dora made the guacamole. Avocados were 59 cents each! Cheapest I’ve ever seen, so we made plenty. Recipe card at the end. I don’t seem to have taken any photos.

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork Bibimbap

I do love bibimbap, but I’m never sure about the meat and sauce part. I’m fairly sure I haven’t hit on an authentic recipe yet. I had some boneless pork ribs, so I put them in the Instant Pot with the sauce from this recipe. It was quick and easy, and they came out looking good:

and shredded up very well.

The taste was not my absolute favorite, though. It was a little harsh and had a weird, tomatoe-y taste to it, somehow, despite not having any tomatoes in it. Still a fab meal. I’ll probably use the Instant Pot to make shredded pork for bibimbap in the future, just not with that sauce.

I put rice in the bowl, then the meat and sauce on that, and then baby pea shoots, quick pickled carrots and cukes, and a lovely, runny fried egg on top, with sesame seeds, Sriracha sauce, and some crunchy noodles.

Party in a bowl! I meant to sauté some mushrooms and spinach, but I was too tired. This is a popular dish at our house because everyone can build their own meal. Everyone likes at least two things, not counting the egg.

If you live in a town with a restaurant that serves authentic bibimbap, please talk to your pastor about hiring me to speak at your thing, so I can have some bibimbap.

Sidenote: every time I sauté something, I have to Google it and cut and paste the e with the accent over it, because I don’t know how to do it on my computer. I could learn how, but I’d forget, and then I’d just have to look that up each time. And then I wouldn’t have the fun of rediscovering one more time (really, I cannot overemphasize how poor my memory is) that a sauté is also a ballet thing, where you jump off both feet and land in a hot pan with a little olive oil.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin mumkins

Irene has been dying for beef barley soup, so I saved her life. The mushrooms had gone bad (my husband wanted to know how that was even possible, since they are already fungus. He’s from Barcelona), so there was more broth than I usually like, but it was still mighty tasty.

 

And Irene got to live.

I also made a huge batch of those foolproof pumpkin muffins (24 muffins and an oversized loaf from a double recipe). Corrie helped me, and I think we somehow got significantly more eggs into the batter than I intended to, but they still turned out fine, tender and a little spicy.

 

Corrie started calling them pumpkin mumkins, and if you think anyone corrected her, you’re out of your gourd. She advised us: “You put your pumpkin mumkin into your soup, and den, BOOM, you EAT your pumpkin mumkin!”

FRIDAY
Instant Pot mac and cheese

Dora promised to bring me a bag of cheese ends from the deli, but she forgot! It’s fine, I still love her. But I won’t forget.

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

Adapted from a CopyKat recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw macaroni
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 pounds cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cups buttered bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put macaroni in Instant Pot with enough water to barely cover. Put hot sauce, and mustard on top and mix it well. Mixing may be superstitious; not sure. 

  2. Set IP to high pressure for six minutes. Do quick release. 

  3. Drain any excess water. Add milk, butter, and cheese, and mix until macaroni is coated. 

  4. Serve as is; or butter a pan and pour the macaroni into it, top with buttered bread crumbs, and heat in oven until breadcrumbs are toasted. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 145: If you give a mouse prosciutto

Lots of variety this week! Rich tapestry of life and so on. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Saturday seems like so long ago. I think Damien bought and cooked the burgers while I . . . did something? You guys, he has this new job where he gets to do the work he likes, he gets paid more, and he’s home. He’s home for supper, home for track meets, home for bedtime. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing that’s happened to our family in years and years, and I’m very happy!

SUNDAY
A CONFUSING FEAST

My daughter works at a deli. One afternoon, we had this exchange:

And that was all I knew. A present? Better than cheese? The suspense! It turns out that what she had was a pound of top quality prosciutto! But it was unsliced, as it was an end piece. $4 a pound for meat that goes for $14.99 a pound. Grocery bargains are my love language.

Prosciutto happens to be my other love language (I’m a bit of a polyglot, to be honest. Will also accept love via pork belly, steak, just about any variety of cheese, shrimp, pie, more cheese, crusty breads, soft breads, herbed butter, most fruits, all types of puddings, custards, and flans, creamy soups, clear soups, middle eastern food, Columbian food, Thai food, Greek food, anything with basil, anything with garlic, hot pretzels, fried pickles, cheese cake, smoked meats, raw oysters, sun dried tomatoes . . .

I’m sorry, I’ve lost my focus. We were talking about the prosciutto. I solicited recipes online, but eventually decided that just plain bruschetta would be best.

Bizarrely, two stores were out of baguettes, so I bought ready-made crostini with olive oil and flaky salt, and I sharpened my best knife and sliced the prosciutto as thin as I could, which was not very thin.

I had collected some creamy fresh mozzarella, and also some gouda, and huge clusters of juicy, dusky grapes. And we also needed fig paste. I had originally been planning to save this treat as an adults-only evening snack, but I had to admit that I had bought kind of a lot of food for two people, so I started planning a family meal around it.

It . . . kind of got out of control.

Oven roasts were still on sale, and as I previously mentioned, I scoff at rigid categories of cuts of meat. Someone had mentioned chimichurri, which I can’t believe I didn’t already know about. It turns out to be really easy to make. You just stuff the things in the food processor, run in a bunch of olive oil, and there it is.

So I sliced the meat into wide strips and threaded them accordion-style onto skewers for Damien to grill outside with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, to be dredged through the chimichurri.

And also a batch of pickled red onions in vinegar, sugar, and cilantro. There were also some lovely tender peas in pods looking for a home, so I set those out in a bowl just as they were. And some salami, and some herbed, braided mozzarella that I forgot I got. And a little bowl of just plain olive oil. And some wild grapes we found while we were gardening. And some more cheese that I forgot I got.

It may be the best meal I ever served. Technically this was a Mediterrani0-Argentinean Travesty with Cheddar and Peas, but it worked, my friends. It worked so well. The cheap meat with simple seasonings sizzling on their skewers with the lively, verdant chimichurri. The salty prosciutto with the creamy mozzarella on a bit of salty bread and a dab of dark fig paste. Cleanse the palate with a few fresh pea pods and grapes, then back for more meat, this time with pickled onions and cheddar. Oh, it was so good. Damien and I ate outside and shouted for the kids to bring us beer and napkins.

The only thing I have to add to this happy food story is that, when I type “chimichurri,” my phone thinks maybe I mean “chili horrible,” which I do not.

I also did a bit of gardening on Sunday, and we got sixty daffodil bulbs, forty irises, and a dozen fancy tulips into the ground. I always think gardening with children is going to be sweet and lovely and wholesome, and it always ends up being . . . not. There’s a lot of bitey ants and moldy mulch and falling on rakes and shouting. But we did get those bulbs in the ground, because I’m always willing to believe that spring will come again. Here is a pictorial version of how gardening starts and ends:

I also gave a kid a driving lesson, and we did not fall off the side of the mountain

and I bleached and kid’s hair and dyed it blue.

Child has SO MUCH HAIR. What a day!

MONDAY
Bagel sandwiches with fried eggs, pepper jack cheese, and ham.

I had in my arsenal two new cast iron skillets they had as a special at Aldi. Cooking in shifts to feed everyone is the bane of my existence, so I was pretty hyped at the idea of making everyone’s eggs all in one go.

Well, it turns out I’ve been spoiled by nonstick pans. I’ve completely lost the knack of cooking on cast iron. I’ll get it back! But these particular eggs were not top notch. Not top notch at all. I didn’t burn the bagels, anyway.

TUESDAY
Carnitas, beans and rice, tortilla chips, guacamole

My husband, who is from Los Angeles, raaaaved about this meal, which made me feel great! In the morning, I took a pork shoulder and put it in the slow cooker with a can of beer and let it go all day on low. At dinner time, I shredded it and sprinkled it liberally with cumin, chili powder, and salt, then spread it in a shallow pan and put it under the broiler.

My carnitas have always been bland in the past, and overly dependent on toppings, no matter what I cook the meat with. I like this method of deliberately cooking it bland and then seasoning it afterward. Works great.

For the beans and rice, I made rice in the Instant Pot, then added black beans, diced canned tomatoes and some juice, minced red onion, minced garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and cumin, then reheated it. I meant to add some diced jalapenos, but I forgot. I wish I had written down the proportions, because it turned out so tasty and lively, which is not always the case.

For the guacamole: Four avocados, fresh tomato, diced fresh jalapeno, minced garlic, diced red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and the juice of two limes. I usually mash half the avocados and chop the other half, but they were a little hard, so I sliced them very thin. Yum.

So then we had flour tortillas with sour cream, the seasoned meat, beans and rice, and guac all together. It was fantastic.

I’m very sad for my past self and my lackluster carnitas. Onward and upward.

WEDNESDAY
Salad with chicken, cranberries, cheese, and nuts

Not a thrilling meal, but decent. I cooked the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on high pressure for eight minutes in just plain lemon juice. When it was cool, I sliced them and served them over salad greens, along with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and crumbled feta cheese. I bought a bottle of “black garlic pepper vinaigrette,” whatever that is, but I forgot to try it. I also meant to add sliced Granny Smith apples, but didn’t even realize till this minute that I forgot that, too.

I seem to have forgotten to take a picture, as well. What was I doing all week? Not taking food pictures, I guess. Here’s an old pic of a similar meal:

My family will not eat salad greens as a side dish, but they eat tons of it if it’s part of a main course loaded salad. Works for me!

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas, pepperoni and black olive

I again forgot to take a picture, but this is what sets me apart from other food bloggers, right? Other food bloggers would torture you with eleven photos of hand-pitted black olives and hand-cured pepperoni that they procured at the pepperoni ranch down the road, laid out artfully on a wooden trencher with lavender and quince hanging around for some reason, interspersed through seven paragraphs about how, on a jaunt to Iceland, they popped into out of the driving rain into an adorable little English muffin shop where the grandmother sat on a two-legged stool in the back, absolutely grinding the flour with her authentic gums while the patrons patiently hung around holding sacks under her jaw, and that’s why Icelandic kids don’t have ADHD.

Not me! I just wrote “pizza” and called it food blogging. In my defense, I did install a thingy so now you can pin images, if you’re into that. Flailing toward solvency, that’s my game.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Easy, cheesy, glutenful: Mac and cheese. I use an Instant Pot recipe. If I’m feeling fancy and I feel like everyone’s blood glucose can take it, I transfer it to a buttered pan and put buttered breadcrumbs on top.

And now it’s almost 12:30 and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I’m loading up all these food pictures and absolutely dying. Gonna go grab some lunch and then get back to you with the recipe cards!

Guess who’s sitting on the couch next to me? My husband. He’s working from home today. You guys.

5 from 1 vote
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Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

Beef skewers

We used a cheap cut of oven roast and it turned out just great (but I'm sure steak would be good, too!). Serve with chimichurri and pickled onions for a wonderful treat. 

Ingredients

  • beef
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least half an hour before skewering meat. 

  2. Slice beef across the grain into wide strips, trimming off fat if necessary. Thread them, accordion style, onto the skewers.

  3. Build the fire and let it die down to coals. 
    Just before cooking, drizzle the skewers with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then lay the skewers over the grill, turning occasionally, until they are sizzling. 

  4. Serve with chimichurri and pickled red onions. 

 

Pickled red onions

A nice side dish for beef skewers with chimichurri

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • water

Instructions

  1. Dissolve sugar into vinegar. Add onions and cilantro. Add water if necessary to cover onions. Cover and let sit for several hours before serving. 

 

4 from 1 vote
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Slow cooker carnitas

Serve on tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, beans and rice, salsa, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer (or soda)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put pork shoulder in slow cooker with beer. Cook on low for five hours or more, until pork falls apart when poked. 

  2. Preheat broiler. 

  3. Shred meat, mix together with spices, and spread in a thin layer on a shallow pan. Broil for a few minutes until meat is slightly crisped.  

  4. Serve on tortillas with whatever additions you like. 

 

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

Adapted from a CopyKat recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw macaroni
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 pounds cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cups buttered bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put macaroni in Instant Pot with enough water to barely cover. Put hot sauce, and mustard on top and mix it well. Mixing may be superstitious; not sure. 

  2. Set IP to high pressure for six minutes. Do quick release. 

  3. Drain any excess water. Add milk, butter, and cheese, and mix until macaroni is coated. 

  4. Serve as is; or butter a pan and pour the macaroni into it, top with buttered bread crumbs, and heat in oven until breadcrumbs are toasted. 

Area Woman Pinning An Awful Lot On That One Run

Area woman Simcha Fisher rebounded from her Christmas and New Year’s slump with a brisk one-mile run this week.

“It’s so good to get moving again,” Fisher said, toweling off her neck with a mitten. “Whew, it’s been too long!” Fisher didn’t say so out loud, but she privately believed her hips had actually already gotten a little bit smaller even in that one run, probably because the fat was just temporary silly holiday fat, and not actual regular fat.

All through December, Fisher had allowed countless phalanxes of cookies and cake, various smoked meats and soft cheeses, sugared nuts, candied fruit, and cream-filled alcoholic beverages to parade down her gullet like a conquering army marching down the streets of an occupied city. But she did go for that one run, and is going to run some more at some point soon, so.

“It’s actually a huge relief to be back in the routine of working out again,” Fisher continued, mentally scoffing at her former bad habits that may have crept up a bit over the course of the last few weeks, during which her only physical activities were cooking, baking, shopping for more food, and cutting mammoth wedges off panettone sweet bread, which is just bread, and not really cake.

Fisher slenderly untied her virtuous running shoes, saying, “I’m going to take tomorrow off and then bump it up to two miles the next day.” She laughed quietly to herself as her abdomen bulged over the waist of her leggings.

“That belly doesn’t even bother me, because I know I’m already working on it,” she said. “I even started running again!” She then rolled her eyes derisively some of those poor suckers who were just starting out at the gym this year, and who were actually fat, instead of just temporarily silly fat.

Fisher than sat on a stool and ate some quick granola, just a little bit to keep the energy up, and then, ooh, there is some of that smoked gouda left, while making her schedule for the coming week. She noted that January was going to be really busy, and it would be hard to find time to get to the gym.

“Well, I’ll fit it in when I can,” she said. “It just feels so good to be active again.”

Actually, that run was last week.

 

***

Dancing Venus by Nina Paley

The lady was sad, and MAD. (We showed the kids an opera!)

don giovanni

My kids’ experience with opera comes entirely from Bugs Bunny, and we really wanted them to branch out. So, with great trepidation, we showed them Don Giovanni last weekend … and they loved  it. More or less.

We did it in two nights. The first night, I set out some trays heaped with treats in the living room. We had brie, havarti, and honey goat cheese and three kinds of crackers, red and green grapes, mini chocolate eclairs, and sparkling cider. So the kids were all excited and cheerful, and ready to have a fancy good time. For my kids, this step is essential. If they get any whiff of high art or culture, they turn into jerks and refuse to enjoy themselves, so they need to be softened up. This is okay with me, because I, too, enjoy cheese.

We went with the Metropolitan Opera’s 2000 production with set design by Franco Zeffirelli. This production has large, clear subtitles, and all the literate kids followed the action just fine. (And the story doesn’t waste any time, but leaps right in, which is one of the reasons I chose this opera.)

The amazing thing was that Benny (age 3) picked up an awful lot, too, and was engaged throughout. She could tell that DonjiManji was one bad dude. She called all the women “princesses” (score one for the wonderful costumes, which were everything opera costumes should be) and said that Donna Elivra was “sad, and mad.” When Don Ottavio was pestering Donna Anna for the umpteenth time, she remarked, “The princess wants him to shut up.”

They laughed at the funny parts (Ferruccio Furlanetto as Leperello did a great job of making all the subtler jokes obvious with gestures and smirks) and were aghast at Don Giovanni’s wickedness.

The NYT review said that Bryn Terfel

comes to the Don with his own powerful if somewhat repugnant point of view. If the production is about period elegance, the character itself achieves a modern mean-spiritedness. Endearing naughtiness is replaced with outright sadism. This is a coldly obsessive figure for whom rape and murder is not offhand but committed with pleasure.

Well, that is the role. I don’t see how the rest of the opera makes any sense if the Don is just endearingly naughty; and his sneering callousness helped the kids to see why (spoiler) Don Giovanni goes to Hell but Leperello gets off the hook. Terfel’s power and command were sufficient to explain why the women found him hard to resist, and, as the NYT says,

this not very nice man sings like an angel. The articulation was wonderful, and Mr. Terfel commands such a depth of color that his ”La ci darem la mano” could soar out into the hall even at half voice. Volume does not necessarily conquer the Met’s bigness. Quality and focus have a better chance.

The entire cast had that focus, and no one seemed dwarfed. Here’s the rest of the cast:

Bryn Terfel (Don Giovanni), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Leporello), Renee Fleming (Donna Anna), Solveig Kringelborn (Donna Elvira), Hei-Kyung Hong (Zerlina), Paul Groves (Don Ottavio), Sergei Koptchak (Commendatore) and John Relyea (Masetto). James Levine was conductor.

Renee Fleming was tremendous. I think a few of the kids were crying when she wept, “O padre mio!” The NYT:

Fleming’s Donna Anna had unusual breadth. ”Non mi dir” luxuriated in the softness of her timbre, yet the early scenes abandoned beauty for its own sake and took on a wonderful fierceness. She is in both moods a splendid musician; the attention to rhythm, phrase length and pitch legitimized the emotion.

Quite right about the two moods. She showed real depth. Her character is naturally more interesting than Don Ottavio’s anyway, but I was really struck, in this production, by how unworthy he is of her! And what a pest, good heavens. I think if she broke a toe or won the Nobel prize for phsyics, he’d scoot over and explain that this was the perfect time for her to get over her grief and marry him.  Anyway, she was immensely present in the role, and plus, she is just so beautiful.

Solveig Kringelborn as Donna Elivira was a revelation to me. I’ve heard this role mainly played as straight up crazy bitch; but Kringelborn brought out some real pathos and humor, and avoided sounding screamy in a role that has a lot of high notes. I enjoyed every minute of her performance, and the kids loved her.

Zerlina, I was not so crazy about, and the kids had a hard time with her character. I’ve seen her played more winningly.  Her voice was crystalline and her diction was perfect, but there was no appeal in her stage presence, that I could see. It would have been fine as an audio performance, but I wouldn’t seek out Hei-Kyung Hong out for this stage role again.

Masetto did fine. Paul Groves as Don Ottavio was nicely stolid and useless, and his voice was as lovely as you could wish for his lovely arias. Don Ottavio is not actually allowed to breathe at any point, and Groves did not. The Commendatore was nice and creepy. I totally would have repented if it had been me holding that cold hand!

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up again

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up

We rented this two-disc set through Netflix, which has several Don Giovannis available. You can buy the DVD set on Amazon, or you can rent it directly from the Met for $3.99.

Very sensitive audiences will be upset with the scariness of the final scene, and with Don Giovanni’s handsiness, but it is an opera about rape and damnation, so. There was nothing so explicit that we found it off-bounds for the kids.

Next up: not sure! I think Mozart is great for kids: the emotion is so evident, and he doesn’t waste any time. Maybe The Barber of Seville.I’m sadly ignorant about Italian opera, and I’d like to remedy that. What would you suggest?